Review: Girl Land – Caitlin Flanagan

In preparing for this blog post, I wrote down copious amounts of notes about Caitlin Flanagan’s “Girl Land“. Why so many notes you ask? There were things I agreed with, things I disagreed with and quotes that intrigued me, but we’ll get to that in due time. The message in “Girl Land” is simple, the transition from girl to woman is an essential part of growing up, ultimately it shapes who we are and determines how we should present ourselves to the world.

For the most part, I agree with some of the essay’s Caitlin Flanagan has written in “Girl Land“, but I hit a grey area when it comes to her overall message, because I believe that we continue to grow with time. Case in point, I’ve learned more about who I am in my 20’s then I ever did when I kept a diary under my mattress as a young girl. The opening line in this book reads,

Every woman I’ve known describes her adolescence as the most psychologically intense period of her life. Her memories of it are vivid: the exquisite friendships and first loves, the ways in which the products of popular culture – the movies and television shows and music – of the day didn’t just inform her emotional life but became a part of it.

I remember what I was wearing when I had my first kiss, I remember the song that was playing for my first slow dance (whatever happened to All 4 One anyway?), so did they help shape me into the woman I am today… in many ways, they did. But I’m of the firm belief that these emotional life experiences are continuing to happen and are continuing to help me grow.

It’s also really important to mention the other key element to Caitlin Flanagan’s message in “Girl Land“, which is that today’s young girls are exposed to a sexualized culture that says it’s okay to create a new song with a man who abused you (AKA Rihanna and Chris Brown). Much of the controversy that circulates around this book, is the way in which Flanagan addresses this topic, often referring to “when she was young” or “how a boy used to court a girl when he was interested in dating her”. Her viewpoints can often come across as redundant because we know that times have changed and with the advancing world of technology and continued exposure to celebrities, young girls are going to morph into womanhood at a rapid pace now and especially in the future, regardless of how much Flanagan wishes it could be different.

Her novel is broken up into essays that explore the many different facets of our childhood/teenage years; dating, diaries, sexual initiation and how these major events are infused with memories and experiences that ultimately help us become adults.

Do I believe that  my “adolescence was the most psychologically intense period of her life”? No.

Do I think it helped me become the woman I am today? Yes.

Therefore, I am recommending this book to others, because even though I tend to think Flanagan can be a little off base with her thinking patterns, I do think she’s created a novel of essays that are great conversation pieces. This is exactly the kind of book you want to read in your book club, simply to hear your friends reactions.

*Many thanks to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with a copy to read.*

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3 thoughts on “Review: Girl Land – Caitlin Flanagan

  1. You handled this review with such balance! Though I haven’t picked it up myself, I completely agree with the arguments you have posted. I also remember my first slow dance song — oh Nsync! Love your review!

  2. Hmm… I definitely think my 20s so far have shaped my life much more than my teen years. I hardly remember anything from them! Sounds like an interesting book though still.

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